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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Farmers Market Board Starts Up New Local Business Group

• Organizers Say Their Effort Isn’t n Competing with Malibu Chamber

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Cornucopia Foundation, which oversees operations of the Malibu Farmers Market, has initiated a new division of the non-profit group called the Malibu Business Alliance.
“This was done in response to the many emails we’ve received from local residents asking what we can do to assist local businesses to stay afloat during these tough economic times,” said Debra Bianco, who is president of the organization.
Bianco indicated the executive board had recently met and voted to take a position to create a non-political business alliance whosemission “is to help grow local business.”
The Cornucopia spokesperson also indicated the board of the foundation is also growing and some of the new members are geared up for the new task, but declined to formally announce the new appointments.
Some of the members have met with Mayor John Sibert, who was said to have given his blessing to the alliance endeavor. “We resolved to take our plan of action to the next level,” Bianco added.
What that means is a plan to offer the foundation as a “common meeting ground and small/local business advocate” by providing a physical meeting place for small business owners in which “they can feel comfortable, meet, brainstorm, and strike up deals amongst themselves. The meetings will be videotaped.”
There is an annual membership fee of $150. And other services are offered, such as email blasts for $25 and the use of a booth at the farmers market for $100.
Members will gain exclusive access to rent a booth at our market. It is limited to five booths and Cornucopia will supply the tent, backdrop and table which they value at $500, according to Malibu Rentals.
The retailers can use the booth for exposure and public relations purposes. “They are not there to sell products, but to meet and greet residents who are potential customers and give out time-sensitive coupons,” Bianco added.
New residents will receive a welcome basket at the farmers market full of fruits, veggies, and coupons from the local businesses.
Cornucopia is also in the process of putting together a new website that will feature a Malibu Business Alliance page to include businesses— logos will go on their page with a link to the business, according to Bianco, who said the new website should be up and running by Aug. 31. In the meantime, the organization can be reached at TheCornucopiaFoundation@gmail.com
Bianco insisted that in no way has the alliance considered taking over the Malibu Chamber of Commerce’s functions. “We cannot advocate or take political positions. We are not going to have mixers,” she said.
Chamber CEO Rebekah Evans was asked to comment on the latest development. “I really haven’t heard about them. I would love to work with them, but we have our own ‘Shop the Bu’ campaign,” said Evans, who indicated the chamber is creating its own website for the campaign and signage will be posted in all of the local stores.
Bianco noted the non-profit is taking a lesson from the environment, that diversity is the key to survival of the community of life,” the group wants to foster the notion that diversity is also the key to enduring vital communities.
“The residents of Malibu have been very clear that they embrace a more rural, small town feel. This includes a preference for unique businesses,” its mission statement says.
“The commercial and business landscape is and will define our Malibu community environment and we must proceed thoughtfully. As such, who better to be a central leader and facilitator as the community comes together to address the critical issues of Malibu community preservation than the Cornucopia Foundation?” Bianco asked.

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